British Columbia: Fisheries

Submitted by The Catt-Trax2 Team on Fri, 2007/01/12 - 3:25pm.

Report prepared by Shaun Hazell and Rick Hansford, students in BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program.

One of B.C.’s most important and fragile resources is its fisheries. From a commercial standpoint this encompasses five major salmon species, which are the Chinook, chum, Coho, pink, and sockeye. Although each is unique, they all share one of the most remarkable life histories with their anadromous nature and ability to inhabit both marine and freshwater environments — even though each imposes very different physiological constraints. As part of this lifecycle, these salmonid species have also developed the amazing ability to return to their natal hatching place to spawn.

Salmon numbers are significantly down from previous years. The responsibility for restoring Pacific salmon stocks lies with Fisheries and Oceans Canada ─ Pacific Region. Over the past decade, this has proven to be quite a challenging task as salmon numbers have declined, which many experts attribute to overfishing, habitat destruction, and changing ocean conditions. However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has taken steps towards rectifying this situation by adopting protective measures, which include putting restrictions on equipment, setting catch limits, establishing and encouraging selective fishing practices, increasing enforcement and penalties, and undertaking habitat restoration programs for many rivers and waterways.

British Columbia’s fish farms pose a huge threat to our wild fish stocks and to our tidal and fresh waters. Our open waters are being contaminated by enormous amounts of pollution from the aquaculture industries’ method of farming, and from the fish themselves. Because the fish are crammed into such tight quarters there is a large amount of feces in a small area, which isn’t good for the waters. Our wild salmon are being affected by such things as sea lice, the transfer of disease and pathogens from the farmed stock to the wild stock, net loss of protein (more wild fish being used to feed the farmed fish than the farms can produce) and the escape of non-native species into our native waters from fish farms.

British Columbia’s aquaculture industry has become an important supplier to the international fish market. It has taken some of the pressure off of the wild fish stocks being harvested. Some say fish farming is good because it gives stable year-round employment for thousands of people, it’s a big money-maker, and it does take some of the pressure off of our wild stocks. However, considering the quality of fish produced, the protein net loss and the damage being done to the environment, the bad far outweighs the good in most people’s eyes.

British Columbia’s recreational fishing has more of an affect on our declining fish populations than most people believe. With over 625,000 licenses sold each year in B.C., thousands of tonnes of fish are being hauled out of our fresh and tidal waters. Ignorance of catch-and-release angling also plays a large part in the problems faced by our fisheries. Although recreational fishing in B.C. drives the economy and tourism, not enough is being done to ensure the sustainability of our fish species and by extension our future economy. Too much pressure is being placed on the fisheries here in B.C. and this is leading towards a major industry collapse (look at cod in the Atlantic). A good thing about our fisheries is that they attract many people from around the world to this province to fish, the money spent by them is going directly back into the fisheries (i.e., licenses, lodges) or indirectly to the fisheries (i.e., via retailers, wholesalers and distributors). The amount of money this province makes from tourism and fishing directly determines the amount of money put back into the fisheries.

Our fisheries is a resource that needs to be preserved beyond its economic value. For example, Pacific salmon has become an important part of our culture and that of the First Nations people of our province.

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